With 2016 having come to a close, we look back at some of the biggest sporting stories of the year. For Indian athletes, the year turned out to be a mixed bag. From Narsingh Yadav's doping controversy to Suresh Raina's dismal form, here's a look at the Indian stars that failed to deliver in 2016:
Narsingh Yadav is a typical case of promising much and delivering zilch. The wrestler was at the centre of one of the murkiest and most dramatic episodes in Indian sports in recent years, and the occasion was the biggest of them all — the Olympics. And in the end, what the country (and the wrestler himself) was left with a blackened face. Did anybody say medals? No, sadly, Narsingh was as far from one at Rio as you could possibly imagine. He secured an Olympic quota for India by winning bronze at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas. However, a ticket to Rio wasn't going to come easily. Star wrestler and two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar took him to court, but the Delhi High Court and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) rejected Sushil's plea for a trial. The road seemed clear for Narsingh, but disaster struck when he returned positive for a banned steroid following a test by the National Anti-doping Agency (NADA) in June. He was subsequently cleared by NADA which upheld his claim of being a victim of 'sabotage'. Narsingh was all set for his campaign at Rio, but an appeal by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) challenging the reprieve granted to him, and the subsequent ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) brought his dreams crashing down. Narsingh was slapped with a four-year ban and his Olympic campaign was over even before it started. — Debdutta Bhattacharjee
For Suresh Raina, the opening and closing notes of his performances in 2016 could not have been more contrasting. After getting off to a good start with a couple of spunky performances in the T20Is against Australia, followed by a decent spell against Sri Lanka at Vizag, the southpaw from Uttar Pradesh could not continue with the same momentum in the opportunities that he got in the remainder of the year.
Raina could not quite deliver either with bat or ball in the Asia Cup and World T20 that followed, despite being showered with opportunities throughout. Such was the damage of the loss of form in those two tournaments that he was dropped from the side for the first time in his career. Dropped despite recovering some of his form with the bat in the IPL, while leading the newly-formed Gujarat Lions side to the play-offs in the tournament.
While he did earn a call-up to the squad for the New Zealand one-dayers, a bout of illness not only ensured that he would have to sacrifice his spot to Kedar Jadhav, who made good use of the opportunities. — Amit Banerjee
2016 was a significant year for Saina Nehwal, but for all the wrong reasons. India's hopes were pinned on her during the Rio Olympics, but she crashed out in the group stage, only to later reveal it was due to an aggravation of a knee injury that she was attempting to power through. Saina's decision to play through the pain was commendable, but it ultimately cost her (and the country) as her body couldn’t handle the on-court exertion.
There was much anticipation for Saina's eventual return, and it was hoped that alongside compatriot PV Sindhu, she would set the world alight. However, while her return was heartwarming for fans, she did not muster any notable performances or win any honours. Thus, 2016 has been a testing year for Saina, and it will be interesting to see how she copes with the weight of expectation after her return to full physical fitness. — Derrek Chundelikkatt
Jackichand Singh emerged as the next big thing in Indian Football in 2015 after a splendid run of form that saw him claim the 'Best Player' award in the I-League that year. Playing for his side Royal Wahingdoh, Jackichand's rise corresponded with his club's elevation into the top three in the league.
His eight goals for his team that season earned him the title of 'Indian Messi, along with a big price tag in the Indian Super League auctions as he was picked up by FC Pune City. But an injury derailed his debut season in ISL.
2016 was supposed to see him soar to even greater heights, but a lacklustre I-League campaign with Salgaocar followed by an equally quiet ISL meant the 24-year-old failed to live up to the hype. He did score in India's win over Puerto Rico in 2016, but his performances still haven't nailed him a place in Stephan Constantine's setup.
Maybe the pressure of being the main man got to the young lad. In addition, opposition teams also identified him as a threat, making it more difficult for him to score. Let's hope in 2017, the youngster learns from this experience and fulfils his potential. — Kaushal Shukla
Babita Phogat, or Babita Kumari as she is popularly known, has been among the country's leading woman sportspersons in the last few years. Babita won the silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and then became only the second Indian woman to win a medal at the World Championship. She went on to win the gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, firmly establishing herself as a sporting icon in India.
But ever since, her performances have failed to match expectations. In 2016, a year where she was expected to conquer greater heights by winning an Olympic medal, the 27-year-old wrestler from Haryana was a big disappointment. Babita was knocked out in the first round in Rio. The wrestler had her struggles before the Games too when she was suspended by the Wrestling Federation of India for forfeiting a bout in the qualifying event. The WFI later allowed her to participate after she issued an immediate apology. We hope that 2017 proves to be a better and more fruitful year for Babita Phogat, a wrestler who has the capability of conquering the world. — Kaushal Shukla
Rohan Bopanna finished 2015 in the top 10 with four titles to his name. With 2016 being the year of the Olympics, there was special attention on India's doubles players as he was touted as one of our strongest medal hopes. Despite a lot of controversy and debate about the pairings to represent India, Bopanna and Leander Paes carried India's hopes in the men's doubles field. But they crashed out in the very first round after a tame straight-sets defeat. Bopanna fared much better in the mixed doubles with Sania Mirza, but couldn't bring home a medal. They narrowly lost in the semi-finals in the super tie-breaker to American Venus Williams/Rajeev Ram, which was then followed by a defeat in the bronze medal play-off match. Bopanna's season continued on a downward spiral even after the Olympic Games, and he finished 2016 ranked 28th in the world with zero title. to make things worse, he was only last week dropped from the Indian Davis Cup team as well. A disappointing year that Bopanna would best like to forget. — Nikhila Makker
If there is one discipline that gives India the greatest hope before every Olympics, it is shooting. It was no different at Rio, especially with a medallist from the last Olympics being a part of the Indian contingent. Yes, we are talking about Gagan Narang, who is a multiple medal-winner in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and world championships and the bronze medallist from the 2012 London Olympics. Naturally, hopes were high from the Indian shooter. Narang did not have the greatest of starts to the year, having failed to secure the qualification score in the 10m air rifle category and was dropped from the Indian team for the first three World Cups by the National Rifle Association of India. However, he fought back with a bronze at the rifle/pistol World Cup at Fort Benning, US, in the 50m rifle prone category. With that, he also won an Olympic quota for India. However, his performance at Rio was nightmarish, to say the least. He failed to qualify for the final round in all the three categories that he participated in — 50m rifle 3 positions, 10m air rifle and 50m rifle prone. It was one of the biggest flop shows of the year and and least expected from a shooter of the calibre of Narang. — Debdutta Bhattacharjee
With India sending its largest-ever contingent in the Rio Olympics that took place in August earlier this year, Deepika Kumari was among the several medal prospects, having fallen short in London four years ago and eyeing redemption this time. That she broke a world record while qualifying for the Rio event added to her credentials as a medal guarantee. Deepika, considered India’s prodigal daughter in the field of archery, however could not live up to her billing either in the team recurve event — where she teamed up with Bombayla Devi Laishram and Laxmirani Majhi — as well as in the individual leg. The disappointment of her missing out on a medal only added to the nation’s woeful run in the tournament, the woeful streak of which was finally broken by Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu. She did not have a very good finish in the Indoor Archery World Cup held earlier this month, in which she finished 17th in the Women’s Recurve event. — Amit Banerjee
Going into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Yogeshwar Dutt was one of the first names when one tried to list down India's brightest medal prospects. However, to the nation's disappointment, Yogeshwar, one of India's top wrestlers suffered a shock first round exit at the Olympics. He fell to a 3-0 loss to Mongolian Ganzorigiina Mandakhnaran who then lost out in the next round to end Yogeshwar's hopes for a bronze through repechage. Later, the London Olympics bronze medalist apologised to his fans through a heartfelt video chat on Facebook for letting them down. Considering his age, Yogeshwar might not get another shot at an Olympic medal henceforth and his dream for an Olympic gold might be left unaccomplished. – Kaushal Shukla
And last but not the least...
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
While a lot of the Indian athletes came under fire for their poor show at the Rio Olympics, the biggest embarrassment turned out to be India's sports ministry. The gate-crashing, selfie-taking officials were held responsible for failing to help the Indian athletes taste success. Indian sports minister Vijay Goel reportedly tried to muscle unaccredited people accompanying him into Olympic venues. Rio organisers accused his entourage of "aggressive and rude behaviour" and threatened to cancel his accreditation. If this wasn't enough, Goel suffered another another foot-in-mouth moment when he wished track and field athlete Srabani Nanda ahead of her event in the Rio Olympics 2016 on social media, using the image of Dutee Chand. Recently, the Indian sports administration was embroiled in yet another controversy as the tainted Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala were elevated to the role of Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) ‘Life Presidents’. While the ministry and IOA are now locked in a tussle over these appointments, is it any wonder that India's athletes continue to under-perform, given the state of affairs of the people in power? — Nikhila Makker
Published Date: Jan 01, 2017 19:40 PM | Updated Date: Jan 01, 2017 20:15 PM